HAVE YOUR CHARACTERS LOST THE PLOT?
E.M. Forster made a well-known differentiation between how story and plot operate. He stated a story is ‘a narration of events arranged in their time sequence’ giving the example ‘The king died and then the queen died.’ His definition of plot is story plus causality. ‘The king died and then the queen died of grief.’ He even added ambiguity and opportunities for development by the addition of ‘The queen died, no one knew why, until it was discovered that it was through grief at the death of the king.’
In these examples Forster shows the intimate connections between character and plot. Characters don’t exist in a void - and with the mention of a king and queen a grand court, with courtiers in all their finery, springs to mind. It's easy to imagine the drama of the two deaths and the possibilities for conflict. If these events were at the beginning of a story we’d be looking for our protagonist to emerge and face a series of conflicts before achieving his/her goal.
Action is a component of plot as it moves a story forward and the rising action, climax and resolution of each scene integrally links the plot’s pivotal moments with your character’s journey. A story can have as much action, or not, as a writer wants (action can be as simple as receiving a letter which changes lives), but focussing on action at the expense of character development can easily result in two-dimensional characters. And non-stop violent action generally disguises the fact that there is no story.
It is irrelevant which comes first, plot or character because inspiration isn’t dependent on rules and regulations, but wanting to know how a character deals with the conflicts they face is what keeps the reader enthralled. We identify, follow and share the hopes and fears of characters we engage with, and they can live in our imagination long after the book is finished.
An interesting exercise is to take a character you’re developing and see what kind of conflicts they might meet, and how they might resolve their dilemmas. I've learnt a good tenet to follow is: character plus conflict equals plot.
Editing has been slow this week but I’ve enjoyed sunshine and a break from the ‘head down, where’s the end of the tunnel, gotta keep going till it’s done and dusted’ mode which is my usual working state. Sometimes it’s good to just let go for a few days and be busy doing something else entirely - like remembering the other people in your life! Putting your writing aside lets you have a different perspective on the whole writing thing; you come back refreshed and ready to dive in again. Chapter 9 is almost finished, and then I’m straight into Chapter 10. If I work hard, I will (yes, I can – I do like that phrase even if it isn’t applicable in every situation) finish by the end of September.
My social media activities have also been sporadic – but 24/7, 365 isn’t possible. You do what you can, when you can – which why today’s update is short and, hopefully, sweet!
He looks, she laughs, soft
exchanges over coffee –
will it go further?
For anyone starting out with KDP this article has some good information:
And if you're thinking of going the traditional route, here are some pointers:
http://amzn.to/18SbSaG Gold Dragon Haiku - my first attempt at publishing poetry!
Join me on Twitter at: teagankearney@modhaiku
To all story lovers out there, good reading, and to those of you who write, good writing.
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